Phone service outage angers Robbins residents

December 29, 2009 4:33:37 AM PST
Landline phone and Internet service has been out for several days in part of one south suburb. AT&T says last week's winter weather is to blame. AT&T says it is working around the clock to fix the problem, but residents impacted by the outage say that's not good enough. They are especially concerned about elderly residents who don't have a cell phone to fall back on in case of an emergency.

Some residents in Robbins want answers as hundreds of homeowners go without telephone service for another day.

At a town-hall-style meeting Monday afternoon, Carrie Smith said the outage is not just an inconvenience but a matter of life and death for her 26-year-old niece.

"She's on a heart transplant list. She has a mechanical heart device and she's waiting for a phone call for a heart," said Smith.

Priscilla Coatney said she first noticed a problem Christmas night around 5 p.m. when her Internet service didn't connec and none of her three phone lines worked.

"I was trying to call a relative in California. No line. And I thought my husband left one of the phones off the hook," said Coatney.

Others on the east side of the south suburb also say their AT&T landline and Internet service suddenly stopped working during the holiday, creating safety concerns especially for many senior citizens and others who don't have cell phones, like Judy Rhyne's elderly neighbor.

"She's very ill and has no way to communicate in case she needed ambulance service or something like that," said Rhyne.

The telecommunications giant blames recent winter storms for the outage, after a utility hole in the area flooded and some cables to get wet. A company spokesperson adds, "AT&T technicians were immediately dispatched and will continue to work around the clock until service is fully restored. Our first priority is to restore service to all of our customers."

AT&T is now providing pre-paid wireless phones to affected residents, but one village official says it's too little to late.

"We're going to be looking at our policy with them and make a determination about what needs to be done," said Tyrone Haymore, Robbins village trustee.

The prepaid wireless phones are being provided to affected residents free of charge and are being distributed through Robbins Village Hall, the William Leonard Library, and the local senior center.

Optimistically, AT&T would like to have phone and Internet service restored to the area by Monday evening, but it may not be until Tuesday.


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